While visiting family in the Western ex-urbs this past weekend, my Mom suggested we visit a relatively new winery that her friend recommended to her. I was thoroughly impressed with what ended up being a "real" winery that produces wines made from grapes grown on their own estate. I couldn't find any other takes on the place so I thought I'd share my experience on this forum (via my blog post on Acquaviva) here with the hope that others will check it out. It's not too far from Ream's in Elburn which I know many Lth'rs are fans of so this could provide some motivation for a day trip (just bring a cooler and ice to keep your brats cold while you are checking out the winery. As of last week, the wine production room was not yet operational and open to tours but you can see it behind the glass. In fact, the first vintage was actually bottled out of state (MI or WI, I don't remember) with their own grapes and they will be doing the fermentation on site for the first time this year.
Chicago’s Wine Country: Acquaviva Winery http://thepleasanthouse.com/2010/07/26/chicagos-wine-country-acquaviva-winery/
July 26, 2010 by artandchel | Edit
The proprietor of the gorgeous Acquaviva Winery in Maple Park, Ill., has brought the spirit of his family’s 100-plus-year-old winery in Italy to a small town in rural Illinois, 60 miles west of Chicago. Imagine the sight of towering fields of hybrid corn juxtaposed with fields of wine grapes and a solid stone winery amidst the blooming Illinois prairie.
When we lived in San Francisco, a friend of ours took Chelsea and me to the town where he grew up, Livermore, Calif., to experience the little wine community in the Livermore Valley. We visited a few wineries there, Wente being one of them. While driving through the country on the way to the vineyards, I was reminded of the area where I grew up in in rural Illinois. The crops are different, I thought, but this is still an agricultural area. The mannerisms and even the dress of some of the folks who poured wine at the Livermore wineries also reminded me of people I knew growing up.
This was all starting to make sense. Farmers grow and harvest their grapes, and then maybe they sell their juice on the market or process those grapes in their own facility and turn them into wine. That finished wine is then sold on the market and/or at their winery. It’s at the point when the product hits the store shelves and the white tablecloths that it becomes easy to forget how much blood, sweat, and tears may have gone into making that bottle. The beef on your plate, or a juicy tomato, has the same kind of story. From that point on I began my journey to better comprehend wine.
Since that trip to Livermore, I’ve tasted wines throughout the Sonoma and Napa valleys, and throughout Italy, France, and Spain. I’ve even tried my hand at making my own very basic wine. After all, as my talented sommelier friend, Linda Milagros Violago, has reminded me during conversations, what is wine but grapes and yeast. Of course, we all know that when it comes to seemingly minimalist endeavors, the devil is in the details. And many details, both big and microscopic, are responsible for getting those grapes and yeast to do what we want them to do: give us a good bottle of wine.
For me, Acquaviva is such a phenomenon that I wasn’t sure which direction to take this post. I could talk about the handmade wood-fired pizzas or the elaborate mural painted in the grand foyer of the winery. I could go on and on about having a real winery less than a half-hour away from where I grew up (a big deal for an area with a lot of growing room when it comes to “real” food and drink). I don’t write reviews of places because I leave that up to the professional critics. I write about anything having to do with food and wine that is significant and memorable to me.
Acquaviva is a solid Midwestern winery that produces all-estate wines, some of which I would (will) be happy to showcase on my menu. Why are they significant and memorable to such a discriminating connosieour as myself? All sarcasm aside, some of the Midwestern and Illinois wines I have tasted tend to be less than sophisticated. Some are mish-mashes of grapes or other fruits from around the area and fortified with obscene amounts of sugar and other cloying fruit juices. For me to take a wine seriously, it has to have been skillfully crafted every step of the way according to standards that are recognized throughout the world.
My first taste was of Acquaviva’s driest white, Prairie Star–made of the native varietal of the same name–which was bright and crisp with a bit of sweet fruit, dare I say prairie banana (a.k.a. paw paw). After that came its entire repertoire, three whites and three reds total. A list of Acquaviva’s wines and their accompanying tasting notes are available on Acquaviva’s Facebook page.
For anyone living in the area, I recommend a trip to this young winery for a taste of grapes grown in Illinois. My favorites were the Prairie Star, Frontenac, and Piacere. Check out more photos here.
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